Talking It Over - Talk About It
Be part of the in-crowd on National Coming Out Day! All you have to do is talk. Talk about your personal lives with people you know. Talk about the issues that GLBT people face. Talk freely, honestly, and openly.
“Talk About It” is the theme of the 18th Annual National Coming Out Day, October 16. “When you ‘Talk About It’ with the people in your life, you begin to change minds one at a time, and that’s the most lasting kind of change,” declares the promotion by the Human Rights Commission.
Think about it: All your lives you’ve been encouraged to remain silent. Only 11 percent of parents talk openly with and about their GLBT children. Most accepting parents put out the message, “We won’t talk about this,” conditioning even adults to hide and limit life to community friends or a few trusted ones outside the community.
Recently I received an email from a young lesbian who came out to her folks after she and her loved one moved in together. She wrote, in part:
“We’ve been together for two years now and I knew from the start that my parents would not be ok with this news so I hid it from them for nearly a year. But when she and I made the decision to move in together, I figured it was finally time to let them know. As expected, the folks were none too pleased. After a few rounds of explosive phone and email conversations we agreed to put the conversation on hold until everybody had a chance to cool down. Soon afterward, however, dad told me in no uncertain terms that the subject was closed. Not only did they not want a debate, he said, but they didn’t want a discussion, and they weren’t interested in meeting her. And that’s how we left it over a year ago. I think they’re trying to wait it out, assuming I’ll come to my senses one day and then we can pretend none of this ever happened. In the meantime, however, we dance around the elephant in the room. Although I call home a few times a week I rarely visit. My mother is upset by this, but she won’t tell me directly since she’s afraid of pushing me farther away, or of opening the door to further conversation on the forbidden topic. On the other hand, the anger I feel at having to leave my partner at home when I visit, coupled with what I find to be an exhausting, uncomfortable exercise of filtering out big chunks of my everyday life during our conversations continues to keep me away.”
This young woman did talk about it. She talked to me by writing the email and letting me use it. She articulated clearly, honestly, and openly what everyone who has ever had this sad experience knows. “Filtering out big chunks of my everyday life” is an exercise common to GLBTs who aren’t fully out.
I know it’s hard. I know it’s damned near impossible to reach certain people. I know the risks may be high, but there comes a time in life when we all must decide to be ourselves, no matter what the cost. Being ourselves strengthens our self-respect.
My correspondent’s parents are uncomfortable, too. Look how angry the dad is, how upset the mother is. Their whole world has narrowed, and they think it is their daughter’s fault. If ever talk were needed, it is here. But how to reach these parents? I suggested that my correspondent and her loved one go to a PFLAG meeting, where I am sure they will be received with love and understanding and with some excellent suggestions.
“Talk About It” doesn’t have to be “talk to the hard cases.” Try it in some easier settings. Put a picture of you and your loved one or your family on the desk or on your locker. Point it out to coworkers on National Coming Out Day, telling them what the day is and how you are a part of it.
Write to someone friendly you have been meaning to tell about yourself and your issues.
My son and his husband always come out to clerks at the grocery store where they shop. Asked if they are brothers, they say, “No, we are partners. We’ve been together for seven years now.”
Straight allies are encouraged to “Talk About It” on National Coming Out Day as well. It seems to me that I talk about it nearly every day. It’s become such second nature that when I nonchalantly declined a doctor’s appointment, I said, “We can’t that day. Steve and his husband are coming to see us.” The young appointment taker blushed and got tongue-tied. “What’s the matter?” I asked. She said, “You don’t usually, I mean, uh say . . .” “Oh.” I said. And then I felt angry. “I do,” I said, and let her feel whatever she was feeling.
Most of the time, you will get a sympathetic ear, for there are many people who are in tune with the times and eager to be educated about this issue. Try it. If you are used to talking about yourself and your issues, make an extra effort on October 16 to be even more aware that you are strengthening the effort for everyone else.
©2006Kay Mehl Miller
Kay is the registered domestic partner of John. Marriage is in her past, not her future. She is also author of Talking It Over: Understanding Sexual Diversity. Email email@example.com.